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Questions About:

Making the Decision

When can I study abroad/away and for how long?   
You may be able to participate in some programs as early as your first year at UWRF. Some programs may have different requirements. Short-term study programs are offered during J-term, spring break, mid-May and summer. Semester programs take place in fall and spring. You may even have to option to study away for an academic year.

How much do programs cost?
Program costs vary based on a variety of factors - where the program is located, what is included in the program (flight? housing? excursions?), who organizes the program, the duration of the program, and so on. Individual program budget sheets are available on program information pages; expenses are broken down into categories on these budget sheets so you can see how much a particular program will cost. All students participating in a for-credit education abroad/away program at UWRF will be assessed an education abroad administrative fee and are required to have UW-System-negotiated international health insurance coverage for the time they are participating in a program. The fees for non-credit and special student programs vary and are listed under "Program Fees" on the information pages.

What extra expenses are there?
Extra expenses will vary by program. You should review the program fees specific to the program in which you are interested for more insight into what these expenses may be and estimates of how much you should budget for these extras. It is important to recognize that spending habits vary from student to student; the estimates provided are averages based on previous student feedback. You should be realistic about your expectations of the experience and your likely spending habits when preparing a personal budget for extra expenses.

Can I receive financial aid?
If you intend to use Financial Aid, you must plan ahead!

Things to know:
  • You must be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for Federal and State financial aid. For financial aid purposes, six (6) credits for undergraduate students and four (4) credits for graduate students is considered half-time enrollment in fall, spring, and summer semesters. Note: J-terms credits are combined with fall semester credits to determine half-time enrollment for financial aid purposes.
  • A financial aid counselor will work with you to adjust your COA (cost of attendance) accordingly for added education abroad expenses, but you must individually request this using the procedures outlined for study abroad here: 
  • Federal Regulations prohibit releasing any financial aid funds before the semester for which you have been awarded. If you need to pay a trip deposit early, for example, you must plan ahead. UW-River Falls financial aid counselors are here to assist you as you arrange funding for going abroad. 
Please make an individual appointment with a financial aid counselor as soon as you begin planning for studying abroad. Learn more at:

What about scholarships?
Many different scholarships are available to assist students with the cost of their education abroad/away programs. Students are encouraged to explore the university-wide scholarship opportunities for returning students, as well as UWRF scholarships/grants specifically designed for students who study abroad (in the Study Abroad Financial Aid section). The Office of International Education also manages/advises several education abroad scholarships; please see our Scholarships & Financial Resources page for more information.

How do I apply?
Students use an online application to apply for all programs and some scholarships. UWRF students use their “W” numbers & regular campus passwords to log in. Non-UWRF students need to request a password, done so by starting an application. To apply for a particular program, click on the “Apply Now” button on your chosen program’s information page. You may also request more information about a program. For more details go to the How to Apply page.

Can non-UWRF students apply for programs?
Yes, some of our programs allow non-UWRF students to participate. Individual program availability is noted on the information page for program and via a specialized search, available here.

I’m not sure where I might want to study, can someone help me?
Our staff and peer advisors in the Office of International Education are available to give you information about your education abroad/away options. Stop by 102 Hagestad or call us at (715)425-4891 to set up an appointment.

Is there a GPA requirement?
Students must have a minimum of a 2.25 cumulative GPA and be in good academic standing in order to participate in an education abroad program with no restrictions.  The Office of International Education is aware that, for a variety of reasons, student's GPA may fail to meet the 2.25 requirement while not necessarily indicating an inability to be successful as a student.  If a student does not meet this minimum and still wishes to participate they will need to display a commitment to, and potential for, academic success by providing the Office of International Education with requested additional application materials.

Additionally, some programs have their own specific GPA requirements. This information is listed on the program information page or on a program’s website (for third-party provided program, as an example). Advisor consent is also required on most programs.

What about credits and grades?
UWRF will award credit or transfer credit from all programs officially coordinated by/affiliated with the university. If the program is coordinated by UWRF (for example, Wisconsin in Scotland, Experience China, International Traveling Classroom, Semester Abroad: Europe, and most of the faculty-led short-term programs), then grades earned on these programs will be figured into a student's cumulative GPA. Grades earned abroad through affiliated programs (for example, exchanges, third-party provided programs) will not be figured into a student's cumulative GPA;  however, the number of transfer credits earned will appear on the student's transcript.  For more information, please see the Transfer Credit page.

If you are a student participating in an Independent Education Abroad Program (one unaffiliated with UWRF), please see the Independent Education Abroad page for information on how your credits/grades earned abroad will transfer back.

How many credits will I receive for my education abroad program?
The number of credits awarded for an education abroad experience varies based on the program. Students should be enrolled for at least the equivalent of 12 U.S. credits while abroad on semester-length programs in order to maintain full-time status. Some short-term programs (J-Term and Spring Break faculty-led programs, for example) are built around a predetermined three-credit course. In some instances, credit is not included as part of the program design (some internships, the Guy Healy Japan program, etc.), so students wishing to receive credit for these experiences need to arrange for internship or independent study credits through their major/minor department. Check with your academic advisor for instructions and guidance on this process.

How do I know which courses to take at another university?
To find which classes are available in your program, consult catalogs, web sites, and other sources available in the Office of International Education to explore the possibilities. Consult with your academic advisor regarding the appropriateness of courses, prerequisites needed and progress toward degree completion. Please be aware that some foreign universities do not post their course offerings until very close to the start of each semester, so remain flexible and patient as you go through this process.

Are there application deadlines?
Yes.  Application deadlines vary from program to program. You can view a program’s specific application deadline on its program information page. It is imperative that you pay close attention to the application deadlines. After a program’s application deadline has passed, your online application will be locked. Occasionally, programs can accept students after application deadlines pass. If you wish to participate in a program but have missed the application deadline, please contact the faculty leader or the Office of International Education at 715-425-4891 to see if participation is possible.

Will it delay my graduation?
With advance planning, education abroad can fit in to your time at UWRF without delaying graduation. Many programs offer a wide range of general education courses while other programs provide independent research or internship opportunities that can be tailored to your major. It is important to work with your academic advisor to determine the way in which education abroad can fit into your academic plan.

Do I have to speak another language?
Not necessarily. While studying in another country is an excellent opportunity to develop additional language skills, most of our programs offer courses taught in English. Check with the Office of International Education to find out if there are language requirements for the program in which you are interested.

Getting Ready to Go

Is there a pre-departure orientation & do I have to go?
Short answer: yes and yes. Longer answer: yes, the Office of International Education will provide comprehensive pre-departure orientation sessions prior to when you go abroad. In addition to covering general health and safety information, orientation focuses on the “details” of international travel such as passport/visa information, how to register with the Department of State’s S.T.E.P. program, practical travel tips, and more. You can find details, dates, and supporting materials for upcoming orientation sessions on the Orientation page.  Attendance at an orientation session is mandatory for all students who study abroad, so make room in your calendar now for one of the sessions.

Who is responsible for making travel arrangements?
Who makes the travel arrangements depends upon the program chosen; please be sure to verify what is included in your particular program.  Some education abroad programs may include air and land transportation, including transfers to and from the airport and/or local transportation.  Other programs only include the program itself, meaning that it is up to the student to book his/her own airfare and transportation to the program location. (No worries, the Office of International Education can provide you with tips and information if you’ve never traveled before!) Additional info:
  • When making your own flight arrangements, it is a good idea to book well in advance, especially during busy travel months.
  • Any additional, personal travel plans that the student chooses to make are generally not included in the program fee. 
  • Optional tours may be available for an additional cost through a program’s sponsoring institution.
  • If you plan to travel independently between different countries while you’re abroad, be sure you apply for the appropriate visas and clearances in advance, if applicable.
What kind of insurance is there & is it mandatory?
UW-System policy requires all students studying outside of the U.S. be insured by the UW-System-negotiated insurance policy. The policy - with health, medical/travel and security evacuation provisions - is administered by Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI). It is recommended students make provisions for insurance coverage if they travel personally after their education program ends. 

How much spending money is needed?
How much money you’ll need totally depends on your spending, lifestyle and travel habits; the length of the program; the location of the program; and what is included in the program fee. It is a good idea to research the program and country prior to the start of your program in order to establish a general travel and spending budget while abroad. Include estimated expenses for housing, food, travel, local transportation, and personal expenses (including some entertainment). Don’t forget to budget for travel during weekends and breaks. Students are encouraged to research country-specific resources for estimated expenses.

Can I use American dollars in another country? What kind of currency will I need? Is all money worth the same amount? Where can I exchange money?
Nope, you cannot use American dollars in other countries; each country or region (in the case of the Euro Zone) have their own, individualized form of currency. You can find out the type of currency used in your host country at this site:

Just as the currency differs between countries, so does the amount of value each individual currency holds when compared to other countries’ currencies. This “exchange rate” changes on a regular basis - so your American dollar will be worth more/less compared to a foreign currency at different times. Current exchange rates can be obtained here: The best thing you can do is to be an educated traveler. Know what the current exchange rate is and be able to calculate how much should be received in return for each transaction.

Students may decide to access money while abroad via an ATM Card, Traveler’s Checks, or Credit Cards.  Currency exchange offices are available at almost all international airports (exchange rates are not favorable at these locations, but they are probably the most convenient locations to exchange a small amount of money when the student first arrives).  Remember to be safe when carrying money and do not carry all of it at once. 

Throughout many countries, ATMs are the standard way for travelers to get local currency and often will have the option of English-language instructions. Using your debit card (with a PIN number) at an ATM takes dollars directly from your bank account at home and gives you that country's cash. You'll pay fees (transaction fees and currency exchange fees, for example), but at a better rate than you would for exchanging traveler's checks.  Ideally, use your debit card to take money out of ATMs. You can use a credit card, but you'll typically pay more in fees (think cash advance rather than cash withdrawal).

Before you go, confirm with your bank or credit-card company that your card will work while abroad and alert them that you'll be making withdrawals while traveling — otherwise, they might freeze your card if they detect unusual spending patterns. Some banks automatically block U.S. debit card use in certain countries to protect against fraud.

How do I get a passport or visa? What other documents may I need to travel abroad?
The actual documents you need vary depending on the location of your chosen program. Be sure to contact the program leader or coordinator for official information. Pay attention to any deadlines; it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete the process of receiving the documentation you need.
  • Passport: Almost all foreign countries require visitors have a valid passport at the time of entry into or departure out of that country. For more information regarding the passport application/renewal process, please visit, or call the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778.  Pay attention to the passport validity dates and give yourself at least 6 months validity beyond your return date.  All students are required to obtain their own passport.
  • Visa: A visa is a permit from an international country that allows visitors to enter and leave their borders. You may need a visa to get into your host country or to visit another country while traveling independently. Visas often list planned travel dates and do expire, so be sure to have your travel dates available when applying. For more information about visas and how to apply, look online at or ask for help from the Office of International Education.  Please note: most visas must be obtained prior to departure, so check with your program leader or coordinator as soon as possible to verify if one is needed.  Costs of visas vary and may or may not be included in your program fee; be sure to verify if a visa is included with your chosen program.
  • International Certificate of Vaccinations: You may be required to obtain a number of different vaccinations prior to entering a foreign country.  Please confirm the necessity of obtaining vaccinations from your chosen program.
Where can I get my passport photos taken?
Passport photos (color photos 2 x 2 inches in size) can be obtained from a variety of places; just make sure to follow the U.S. Department of State’s passport photos requirements. On campus,  University Communication Photo Services can provide your passport photos for a modest fee. Local photography studios often provide a passport photo services, and many chain stores like WalgreensWalmart, CVS, or FedEx Office (and others) offer another possible source for passport photos. A standard passport photo package usually includes two photos.

How can I keep in touch with home while I am gone? 
Mail, telephone, SKYPE, and e-mail are all available means by which to communicate with home while abroad.  Reliability and access will vary from country to country. Students should verify if their cell phones will work outside of the U.S. and check with their carrier regarding fees/available plans if they wish to take their phones with them (not all phones will work or have coverage abroad).  Some research ahead of time will provide a student with ideas for the best means of communicating with home.

What is an ISIC card?
An International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is an internationally-recognized form of student identification and gives students access to discounts around the world. The $25 card can be obtained either online or through the Office of International Education; application requires a photo. More details on discounts available through the ISIC can be found here

What should I pack when I go abroad? How many suitcases can I bring? Are laundry facilities available? Do I need anything special to be able to plug in my electronics? Can I bring a curling iron/hair dryer/straightener? Other packing questions...
Deciding what to pack is one of the challenges of preparing for an education abroad program. Be sure to check with your airline for information regarding luggage restrictions (number of suitcases allowed, weight requirements, etc.) as you do not want to incur additional fees. Generally, a good strategy is to pack clothing appropriate to your destination’s climate that can be mixed, matched, and layered. Check with your program leader/coordinator on the availability of laundry facilities; the type of laundry facilities available differs by country so you will want to be prepared. Remember that most of the rest of the world uses a different electrical current than the U.S. and the plugs are different, so unless your electronic device is adaptable to different levels of voltage, you will need to purchase a voltage adaptor in addition to plug adapters. Items with heating elements (curling irons, hair dryers, straighteners, etc.) are often quite touchy, even with a voltage converter, so the best recommendation is to leave your U.S. appliance at home and purchase/borrow one in your host country (we’ve heard horror stories about fires, melting appliances, burned hair...). For more information on packing and to view suggested packing lists for international travel, please check out the handbooks on the Orientation page.

Do I need to bring prescription or over-the-counter medication along with me?
If you have a prescription or a favorite over-the-counter brand of medication, be sure to bring enough along with you for the duration of your program; prescriptions from U.S. doctors cannot be filled overseas and the availability/brand names/types of over-the-counter medication vary by country . Leave all of your medications in their original containers, and keep them in your carry-on when you travel (especially prescriptions). If you are concerned about your prescription being legal in your host country (mostly applicable for some mental health medications), please contact CISI (your international medical insurance provider set up through the university) for assistance. For more information on health/medical/medication issues while abroad, please check out the handbooks on the Orientation page.